- Kitchen renos peak after the holidays when the frustrations worn out kitchen layouts peak. If you’re planning a kitchen redo for 22, we’ll tell you how to choose new cabinets that’ll step up the space and not blow the budget.
- Are you ready to pick up a new snowblower before the first major snowstorm hits? Consumer Reports has you covered. Home and appliances reporter Paul Hope joins us with their picks of the best snowblowers on the market.
- Are messy pets creating a decorating dilemma? Afraid that anything you buy will be ruined by your well-meaning pooch? We’ll have tips to help you get the best of both worlds.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Tom from New Jersey asks, “what is the renovation definition for Return on Investment (ROI)?”
- Cindy in Florida wants to know if needs to strip her old epoxy paint before applying a new epoxy coating to her floor..
- James from Nebraska is concerned about reports of fumes coming off spray foam insulation.
- Loretta is building a beach house with a crawlspace and looking for a moisture resistant flooring alternative to natural hardwood.
- Dennis in South Carolina wants to know what kind of mortar to use on an old stone home.
- Brenda in Michigan would like to know what type of wall board to use to avoid mold in her basement.
- Jim from Illinois has an old cedar deck and wants to know if he should power wash the deck?
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Are you busy as a beaver right now? It’s the holiday season. What, Thanksgiving is next week right now? And so, if you are trying to finish up your home prep for maybe having a few relatives over this weekend, it’s kind of nice because we couldn’t do that last year, right? It was harder. So now we’re starting to enjoy our family gatherings, which is totally awesome.
So maybe you’ve got a couple of fix-ups you’d like to get done. Maybe you’ve got a project that you’re dreaming about for next year when the weather turns a bit warmer. The bottom line is that we are here to help you create your best home ever. So, if you have a project you want to get done, if you need help solving a problem, if you’ve got a decorating dilemma, a DIY dilemma, you-just-don’t-know-which-end-of-the-hammer-to-hold dilemma, we are here to help.
Couple of ways to get in touch with us: you can call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 24/7, or you can post your questions to MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, it is the most wonderful time of year for new kitchens. A lot of folks are taking on the project now. And if it’s on your to-do list, we’re going to tell you how to choose cabinets that’ll step up the space and not blow the budget, in today’s Smart Spending Tip.
LESLIE: And also ahead, winter is on its way and snow, well, that’s coming, too. That’s why now, before the snow comes, is the time to get your snow blower ready for the winter season. If you need a refresher on how to do that or maybe you’re ready for an upgrade, Consumer Reports has got you covered. We’re going to find out which snow blowers are best when Home and Appliances Reporter Paul Hope joins us.
TOM: Are you afraid that anything you buy will be ruined by your well-meaning dog or cat? Well, we’re going to have tips to help you get the best of both worlds, just ahead.
LESLIE: But first, we want to help you create your best home ever. From bathrooms to basements and demolition to décor, we’re your coach, we’re your counselor, we’re your cheerleader for all of those projects, big and small.
TOM: So call us, right now, with your home improvement questions, your décor questions, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions to MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Tom in New Jersey is on the line and has a question about return on investments when it comes to projects. And it’s not you, Tom. We actually have a Tom.
What’s going on?
TOM IN NEW JERSEY: I hear you talking about return on investment when it comes to renovation. And for example, if you say a big bathroom has a 50-percent return on investment for a renovation, I assume that means that if you sell your home, you’re going to get back 50 percent of what you put into that – extra on that bathroom. In other words, different (inaudible) in the world of finance, where if someone says you’re getting a 50-percent return on investment, you would get back your – the full capital that you put up front plus another 50 percent. So I don’t know, is the definition different when talking about renovation budgets?
TOM: That is a really excellent question, Tom. And yeah, what it means is kind of how you first described it. In other words, if we say that a bathroom gives you a 50 percent return on your investment, actually it’s higher. But let’s say, for argument’s sake, it’s 50 percent. That means if you sell your home – and if you sell your home within a pretty short period of time, by the way.
And the National Association of Realtors started this cost-versus-value survey idea a while ago with Remodeling Magazine. And that’s kind of how they determine – they said, “Well, if I put $10,000 into a bathroom and then I sell my house in a year, I will technically be able to charge $5,000 more than if I hadn’t put the 10 grand in.” So that’s what they mean by return on investment when it comes to remodeling.
But generally speaking, we have these numbers so that they could be compared relatively to each other. In other words, sometimes people think that everything – that every dime they put into a house is going to give them a good ROI.
But I have sad news, Leslie. The man caves, they don’t really give you much of an ROI. The bathrooms, yeah, definitely.
LESLIE: But they bring happiness. Doesn’t that matter for something?
TOM: I think so. I think it definitely does.
LESLIE: Cindy in Florida, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
CINDY: We bought our house 2 years ago and one of the options was to have the epoxy floor. And what we got was a plain, gray epoxy.
CINDY: And now we noticed that the other houses that are all being built around us, they have a gray epoxy floor but they have those little speckle confetti on top.
TOM: Yeah. Mm-hmm. Yeah.
CINDY: So we want to know – we want to redo our epoxy to have that little confetti sprinkled on.
CINDY: Do we have to strip the old epoxy off completely or can we just put a new epoxy over it?
TOM: No, I think you could put a second layer on it as long as that old epoxy is adhered well. If it looks like it’s a tough finish and it’s sticking well, then I think you could add another coat of epoxy on top of it. Some folks put multiple coats of that base epoxy and some folks put the clear – you can put a clear coat on, on top of what they have.
So, no, you can put another layer on it. I would try to find out what product it was so that you’re using the same product. That would give you a better chance of not having any adhesion issues.
CINDY: Oh, that makes a difference, the same product. OK.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah. OK?
CINDY: I didn’t even think of that. Thank you very much.
TOM: Alright. OK, Cindy. Good luck with that project and thanks for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now, we’re going to head over to Nebraska. James is on the line with us and has some questions about insulation.
What’s going on at your money pit?
JAMES: Hey, just curious. I’ve done some reading. Some of that spray foam, there’s some fumes apparently possibly coming off some of that. Do you know what’s out there and what that can cause and some of the problems they’re having with that?
TOM: I know of one case that was, I believe, in Canada where there was potentially some material that was improperly mixed but it certainly is not a widespread situation. I personally have Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation in my crawlspaces in my basement and in my attic and across my kitchen roof. And I am very, very happy with it. It’s been very effective for us. So I, personally, would say you could use a name-brand insulation like that without fear of any type of off-gassing. I don’t think it’s a concern whatsoever.
JAMES: OK. I guess that was my only concern, because it looks like it’s a really good way to go. But after, you know, seeing a little bit of that, I was a little hesitant so …
TOM: Yeah. I mean if you deal with a good contractor with a good reputation and a good product, like Icynene, I think you’ll be fine.
I actually have photos of the project on MoneyPit.com. If you search for The Money Pit Insulation Guide, you’ll see photos of the Icynene going down – going into the spaces. And we had a really complicated house. We had flat-roof sections where the roof structure was opened up for the outside and sprayed down across the ceiling and then closed in. We had a traditional attic and then we also had an attic that – over the kitchen that was not accessible. So in that case, the plywood was taken off from the outside. And once again, we sprayed down across the kitchen and then reroofed the place. So, it was kind of an interesting project but we saw huge differences pretty much right away after the product had dried.
JAMES: OK, great. Well, thank you so much. And thanks for taking my question, too.
TOM: You’re welcome, James. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Loretta, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
LORETTA: We’re in the process of building a beach house. And we have a crawlspace, no basement, because of the water level there. Basements are not allowed. Everything we’ve looked up – and just trying to find out what flooring to put in. We were hoping for 90-percent of the floor to be hardwood floor.
But there’s third – everybody’s telling us no, we can’t do hardwood. So we’ve been looking around and we’ve seen different types – laminate, vinyl – and have read so many mixed things about it that we just were undecided of what to do now.
TOM: OK. So, if you’re thinking solid hardwood, I would agree. There is, however, a type of hardwood called “engineered hardwood” that is much more dimensionally stable and can work very successfully in damp locations.
Engineered hardwood is – if you can think of the way plywood is made, where you have different layers of wood that are glued together at opposing angles but the top surface is what you see, that’s kind of what engineered hardwood is in terms of how it’s made. There are different layers that are glued together at 90 degrees. And when you see the finished board, the top of it that is all that you see when it’s all down, is the hardwood. And the rest of it, basically, is the part that gives it this sort of structural rigidity in different conditions.
So you definitely could use an engineered hardwood. But that said, sure, there are lots of great laminate products. And also, the new type of product that looks like pretty much laminate or can look like hardwood is called EVP, which stands for Engineered Vinyl Plank.
I just put a beautiful EVP floor down in my mom’s kitchen for her, so we’re on a floor that was going to take the traffic and handle the moisture and the spills and that sort of stuff and the chair scuffs. And man, it looked great. It looks like an antique-y kind of an old, wood floor. And the whole thing is made out of vinyl but I’m telling you, nobody can tell when they walk in this kitchen and look down at it. Vinyl is the last thing you would guess, because they’ve done such a great job now with how these products are made and the colors that they put in and the textures that they put in. It looks just like the real thing which, in our case, was an old, wood floor.
LORETTA: Mm-hmm. And it’s definitely good with humidity and …
TOM: Well, it’s vinyl. You could use it underwater and have no effect.
LORETTA: OK. Right.
TOM: Right. So, I would take a look at those products and I think you’ll find something that is going to work well for you.
LORETTA: OK. OK. How about price-wise?
TOM: The EVP is going to probably be less expensive than the engineered hardwood but it’s not terribly expensive either way.
LORETTA: Alright. We’ll take a look at it.
TOM: Alright, Loretta. Good luck with that house. Let us know how you make out.
LESLIE: Well, kitchen renovations are a popular project this time of year and new cabinets can really be the most expensive part of that job. And boy, can they get expensive fast. But if you understand your options, you can get that kitchen done for a lot less than your ever imagined. We lay out the possibilities, in today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card.
TOM: Alright. First, if you’re planning to replace the cabinets, there are three levels of cabinet customization to consider. The least expensive is stock cabinetry. It’s basically mass produced and today, you’ll find them at home centers and other retailers. And they’re not easily modified. That said, manufacturers do offer a pretty wide variety. And stock cabinetry can be a perfect solution that saves a lot of money.
One source that we love for stock cabinets is IKEA, because instead of messing around with leveling and shimmying to install them straight, I love the fact that they provide a bar that’s mounted on the wall and then you just hang the cabinets on the bar. It’s brilliant. And believe me, that’s coming from a guy who has installed hundreds of kitchens. That was one of the jobs I had college summers. We would do three kitchens a day in new construction, because we were paid by the kitchen and we got pretty fast. But it was tough.
LESLIE: My goodness. That is definitely a huge helper-outer there, with that upper-cabinet help.
Now, next option is semi-custom cabinets. Now that’s the middle ground between those stock and those custom options. And this variety is going to allow you for some slight modifications, not major modifications. I’m talking about height, width, depth. And this is all at the time of production. And there is a wider array of associated moldings and trims and finishes that are available. And of course, the more stuff you’re doing, that price is going to go up accordingly.
And then finally, we’re talking about custom cabinets. Now, these would be created especially for you and for your kitchen, with pricing determined by the complexity of the design and the materials that you are using. Now, if you demand fine craftsmanship or significant customization for your space, then custom cabinets really are the way to go. But remember, they’re going to be the most expensive option out there. They’re gorgeous but they’re very budget-heavy, I should say.
TOM: Yeah, absolutely. You’re not going to save any money.
Now, in terms of popularity, light-colored cabinets with a mix of open shelves and glass-fronted doors are going to provide both that visual depth that opens up the space. And they’re super popular right now. So, just keep in mind, also, that small changes in hardware, like new handles or drawer pulls, they can make a big difference in the overall look of a kitchen.
And painting cabinets, totally the in thing to do right now. Because there are so many natural wood surfaces out there or stained wood surfaces that are old, painting them is really popular. Those solid-color cabinets are really the thing now. So if you paint them, the kitchen will no longer look very dated and you will be good to go at a fraction of the cost of replacing it.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. We painted the cabinets and I cannot tell you. The room feels bigger, it feels brighter, it feels happier. I mean it’s not brand-spanking new but boy, does it look fantastic.
That’s today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card.
TOM: Apply for yours at BankOfAmerica.com/MoreRewarding.
LESLIE: Alright. We’re headed over to South Carolina now. We’ve got Dennis on the line.
Hey, Dennis. What are you working on?
DENNIS: I bought a house in Illinois, a house that was built in 1845.
DENNIS: It’s got 2-foot-thick, you know, walls and it’s layered stone.
TOM: OK. OK.
DENNIS: My question to you is: what would you – what type of mortar would you recommend to put in that, in this old stone home? So that – because over the years, people have tried to put some mortar in some of it – some of the mortar that’s fallen out and it cracked.
TOM: Right. Right.
DENNIS: But it’s all different colors. It looks goofy. I want to – I’d really like to make it uniform.
DENNIS: And what mix of sand and mortar would you recommend?
TOM: Well, usually for exterior and above-grade walls, you’d use a type of mortar called an N – N as in Nancy – an “N mortar mix.” It has a medium sort of compressive strength and it’s made of one part of Portland cement, one part lime and six parts of sand. It’s pretty easy to work with.
And you can also buy premade mortar mix from QUIKRETE. For example, they sell a type N mortar mix and they sell it in different colors. I think gray is the base color. So, you might want to take a look at that.
TOM: But I think what you’re looking for is type N mortar for stone walls.
Good luck with that project. That sounds really fun and I’m sure it’s a beautiful home. We appreciate you calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Brenda in Michigan, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
BRENDA: Yes, hi. We were just wondering – we have a basement that we’d like to remodel. And the only problem is that, right now, it currently has a glued-on carpet. It has paneling in the walls. And we had a termite problem. So we want to know: what would you put for – once we gut everything all out, because the termite problem has been corrected, what kind of walling material could you use that would be anti-termite, anti-mold-resistant and moisture? And it’s against a block basement. What would you recommend?
TOM: So, first of all, what you would do is you would frame the wall out away from the block wall. You don’t want to attach anything directly to the block wall, because you need to have sort of an air space between the wall and the concrete block so that it can breathe. If there’s moisture that gets into the wall, it can evaporate.
In terms of what kinds of materials you use, you’re going to use either steel framing or you’re going to use a pressure-treated sill plate. That’s the bottom piece of wood – the bottom 2×4 – and then typical traditional 2x4s on top of that.
In terms of the wall covering, there’s a type of drywall called DensArmor, which is fiberglass-faced as opposed to paper-faced. And that’s a good option for a basement because this way, that paper face can’t feed a mold problem.
In terms of the termites, if the home was properly treated, you shouldn’t have to worry about those. It’s not like you need to worry about building a termite-proof basement down there. The termite-proofing is the application of the right pesticides that keep them at bay. Typically, today they use a type of pesticide that’s called an “undetectable pesticide.” It goes in the soil, at the foundation perimeter. As the termites pass through that, as they go to the nest, they pick it up and spread it to the rest of the insects in the nest, kind of like germ warfare. And that wipes out the whole colony.
And those treatments are effective for 10 years-plus. So, if it was done, you shouldn’t have to worry about that. Just concentrate now on the best materials for finishing that basement.
BRENDA: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
LESLIE: Well, winter is almost here and the snow is sure to follow. That’s why now, before that first major snowstorm hits, now is the time to get your snow blower ready for the winter.
TOM: If you need a refresher on how to do that or you’re in the market for an upgrade, Paul Hope, Home and Appliances Reporter with Consumer Reports, joins us now with tips to help.
PAUL: Thank you.
TOM: You guys must start really early testing these things. It must be hard to think snow. And when are you working on them? In the middle of summer?
PAUL: It’s a tight turnaround for us because, obviously, we want to get all the newest models each year in the test but they’re not always available. So we usually scramble to buy them sometime in September and October. One of the things we actually do to work around it is we do most of our testing with wet sawdust, a very specific mixture we use to mimic really heavy, dense snow. And that’s something that allows us to test even before the first snowfall.
TOM: I wondered what you were using. I know that manufacturers, like toilet manufacturers, have something they call “testing medium” that they use to see how well it flushes.
LESLIE: That’s the polite way to say it.
PAUL: Sawdust might be another way to say that.
TOM: Yeah, right.
LESLIE: So, now, we’re just getting ready to be in the winter season. What do you recommend? Do I just spend an hour checking out the snow blower and making sure everything is kind of intact? What’s the best approach?
PAUL: Sure. So, what you have to do with your snow blower at the start of the season is going to depend a lot on what you did at the end of last season. So, ideally, you should drain the gas at the end of each season from the snow blower or store the battery, typically indoors, if you’ve got a battery blower.
If you didn’t, the first thing you probably want to do is drain the old gasoline out of the snow blower. Because unless you mix that gas with fuel stabilizer, chances are pretty good it’s gone bad since you last used it.
That said, the next thing you really want to do is just start the thing up and make sure it runs. It’s super important to do that, obviously, before the first snowstorm because that’s just about the worst time to learn that your snow blower won’t start. And of course, everyone else running into that problem is going to flooding all the local repair shops. So, you’re going to be at the end of a long queue to get your snow blower repaired if you can’t get it started, you know, after the first snowstorm.
TOM: Now, if you’re in the market for a new snow blower, I want to talk just a bit about the types of snow blowers and how you decide what’s best for you. Because we have snow throwers, right, which are sort of the entry level where if you have an inch or two or maybe three on a sidewalk, it would do a good job clearing it. But then you go to the snow blowers and then you have single-stage and two-stage and so on. So how do you decide what’s the right level for your particular home situation?
PAUL: Sure. So I mean the single biggest thing you should consider, when you’re shopping for a snow blower, is just how much snow you get on average over the course of the winter and also, how much typically falls during a single storm. If you live somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic or maybe even Northern Virginia, somewhere in that neck of the woods, you probably don’t need to invest in a big, heavy, three-stage snow blower because those can clear up to a foot-and-a-half or more of snow in a single pass. It’s probably overkill and too expensive.
So you really want to start with just thinking about how much snow you get in a typical snowfall. One clever thing you can do is actually go on the National Weather Service website. And if you can’t remember or you’re not paying close attention, you can actually look at historic weather trends by zip code for your area and see how much snow typically falls in your region if you, obviously, never bothered to measure, as most of us probably haven’t.
So, you really want to pair your snow blower to the average snowfall. Snow throwers or also called “power snow shovels,” as you mentioned, they’re good for a light dusting, a few inches. They’re also a good supplemental tool. If you have a bigger two- or three-stage snow blower, it can still be nice to have a snow thrower just to clear off a deck or patio, any areas where you can’t get to with those big, heavy blowers.
And then once you’re into the real snow blowers, a single-stage blower is typically good for snowfall up to about 6 to 9 inches. Anything more than that, you want to jump up to a two-stage, which can handle a foot, maybe as much as 16 inches in depth in a single pass. And then if you’re somewhere really in the Upper Midwest, you’re in Maine or far Northeast, that’s where you really want to start to consider maybe a three-stage blower. Those can typically clear about 18 inches in a single pass and they do it really quickly.
LESLIE: But now, if you’re in a situation where you’re not expecting that much snowfall so you get the smaller-sized one and then, all of a sudden, you get a huge storm, can you still tackle that snowfall with the smaller single-stage?
PAUL: You can. The secret is to be really proactive about it. So, one great trick – if all of a sudden, you’ve been making do with a little single-stage snow blower and there’s a huge storm in the forecast, one good thing you can do is actually try to plan on doing two passes. All snow blowers will typically work in just about any snowstorm but the distinction is how much they can clear in a single pass. So if you’re getting a huge downfall and you’ve only got a small blower, go out there maybe halfway through the storm, if it’s safe to do it, and blow the snow. Otherwise, you can wait until it’s all fallen but just be ready to make some passes over each section of the yard and driveway before you’re done.
TOM: Yeah. I’ve made that mistake where I said, “Well, let me just wait until it’s done.” And by the time it’s done, it may have started to get wet and heavy and now the machine can’t handle it anymore. Well, that’s all good advice.
Before I let you go, can you give us a couple of recommendations on specific blowers that you’ve tested that have done well? Include in that, please, the rechargeable blowers because not everybody is going to go out for a piece of gas equipment these days. And you can get a pretty good job out of some of the battery-powered blowers.
PAUL: In our testing, we’ve seen huge improvements in some of these battery blowers. They were really sort of all but a joke a few years ago and they’ve really gotten serious.
So, starting with them, the first thing I would say is you want to look for one of the small number of two-stage battery snow blowers that you can find on the market. We only have two of them in our ratings right now, because it’s such a new category, but both are really excellent. One is from EGO, which is now a Lowe’s exclusive brand and the other is from Snow Joe.
They both perform very comparably. They really, in our testing, did do almost as good a job as some of those really heavy-duty two-stage blowers. Where you see the distinction is in the time you’ll spend. So, both score a little worse for removal speed, which means you have to use – take a little more time to do it. But they can really tackle that big pile-pile at the end of your driveway and they can throw snow pretty far.
If you do go with gas, one thing I’ll say is that in our testing, three-stage snowblowers, as a category, just perform extremely well. It’s really a market that’s dominated by one brand. Typically, it’s Cub Cadet and they make a bunch of configurations. They make a Home Depot-specific model that’s actually about $900 cheaper than their top-performing three-stage snow blower. And that’s the 3X 30-Inch HD. That’s available at Home Depot. It’s a really great, potent snow blower. It’s pricey; it’s $1,700. So, again, it’s totally insane and overkill if you don’t live in an area with heavy snowfall. But if you really need something that’s top of the line, that’s the way to go.
TOM: Well, don’t wait for the big storms. Start heading out right now. Because just like anything else, when the snow hits, that’s when everybody goes shopping for snow blowers and prices go up and it becomes harder to find them.
Paul Hope, the home and appliance editor for Consumer Reports, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Great tips on how to get your snow blowers ready and pick up a new one, if you are so inclined, so you’re good to go when the white stuff starts to fall. Thanks, Paul.
PAUL: Thanks you, guys.
LESLIE: Well, having a family pet is rewarding in so many ways. But the mess that ensues definitely is not one of those rewards. We’ve got a few easy ways to create a space that works well for both people and pets.
So, first of all, think about the furniture you’re buying and make sure the furniture that you pick out is pet-friendly. What exactly does that mean? Well, you want to make sure that the fabric doesn’t have a lot of threading to its woven pattern so that when the dog or the cat scratches at it or inadvertently rubs their nails on it – let’s call it that because maybe they don’t mean to scratch. But maybe when they accidentally rub their nails on your furniture, you want to make sure that they’re not going to snag that fabric and then pull out a lot of those threads. So you want to look for something that’s a microfiber or something that’s really a tight-woven material so that there’s nothing for them to grab.
Now, if you’ve got a piece of furniture already that’s just not a good fabric for an animal in the house, get a pet-proof cover. And that’s going to be great because then you don’t have to worry about the hair, you don’t have to worry about any accidents happening on the furniture or anything happening to the fabric below. You want to make sure that that pet-proof cover is removable. You can clean it as needed. And find one that kind of works with the style already of the sofa and in a color that’s fantastic.
And you know what? The prices aren’t terrible, so you can get two kind of as a backup. And then once your dog or cat kind of mellows out a bit and maybe you’ve trained them to not go on the furniture, then you don’t have to use it all that often.
TOM: You can also consider adding a pet-washing station into your home. Because if your pets are clean, they can’t leave all that dirt around. And this way, when you and your dog head out on a rainy day, only one of you knows to wipe your feet before heading back in. So you have a handy wash station there to get all that mud off of Fluffy or Fido before they decide to jump up on your couch or worse, on your bed. Man, there can’t be anything worse than that: getting some dirt on your sheets. Right? Makes me scratchy just to think about it.
For more tips, you can check out “Pet-Friendly Design and Decorating” on MoneyPit.com. And we also have an article there on how to build your own pet-washing station.
LESLIE: We’ve got Jim from Illinois on the line who needs some help with a deck project. What’s going on?
JIM: Yeah. I’ve got an older deck. It’s at least 10 years old and I haven’t taken care of it like I should. And so it’s starting to wear and obviously, it’s pretty dirty. So, my question is: power-wash it only and then use some type of a treatment? Or what do you recommend?
TOM: So is the deck structurally OK? Is it just sort of cracked and checked from exposure to the sun? What’s its condition now?
JIM: Structurally, it’s really good. And I’ve actually replaced a few of the deck boards in the past.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
JIM: But when it rains, water kind of ponds on it. And again, it’s not draining like it should, so I definitely need some kind of treatment on it, I believe.
TOM: So what you could do is – first of all, you can go ahead and pressure-wash it but gently, OK, just to make sure you’re getting any surface dirt sort of out of that. And there’s some deck-wash products that make it a little bit easier to do this. You kind of scrub it down with a brush a little bit first and then you rinse it off. You don’t want to go too aggressive, though, especially with an older deck because you’re going to wear way more of that wood than you want to. Then you want to let it dry really, really well. A couple of days in the sun at least. Maybe do it one weekend and the next weekend, plan on doing your staining.
And then, in terms of finish, you have some options there. But I would recommend, considering the age, doing a solid-color stain because it has a lot of pigment in it. It soaks in really, really well. It will be – you’ll still see the grain in the boards and such but the stain really will work its way in terrifically and really protect it for the next 3 to 5 years. If you take your time and do it right, it’s really going to last.
And you will find that it’s a lot easier to put stain on a deck if you spray it. Now, you can purchase a very inexpensive paint sprayer these days. I mean they start at around $50, $75. Look at one of those Wagner Control Pro models or rent one. But you’ll find that it’s hugely easier when you do it with a sprayer, because a deck is so tricky to get into all the nooks and crannies.
JIM: Yeah, I agree completely, especially where there’s cracking. The paint can get down there better if it can be sprayed in, I believe.
TOM: Yeah. You’ll save a lot of time, too. And a lot of backache.
JIM: Alright. Well, I need that. I appreciate it.
TOM: OK, Jim. Good luck with that project.
JIM: Thank you.
LESLIE: Lisa wrote in and she says, “I bought an electric pressure washer and I want to clean the vinyl siding. Now, the siding has a buildup of mold algae and it’s just getting really dirty. What kind of solution do I need to do this with and how can I clean this stuff off?”
TOM: Yeah, that’s a great question, Lisa.
So, first of all, you do need to apply a mildicide/algaecide first if you really want to get it clean. Zinsser makes one that is a pretty good product that will work. And the key here, though, is to apply it and let it sit for a good 10 or 15 minutes so that it gets into the roots of all that stuff and where it’s grasping your house. And then once you’ve done that, then you can use the pressure washer.
But a big caution here and that is: don’t use too much pressure. You’ve got to really take it easy. If you have it set too hard, it’s going to blow a hole right through that vinyl siding, because it’s pretty soft stuff. Now, most pressure washers are going to have a choice of tips. Just make sure you choose the one that applies the least amount of force.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Terry who wants to know how to get rid of a strong, smoke/cigarette smell in a house that she’s thinking of buying. So she writes that she’s super sensitive to this odor and that she’s not really sure if she wants to invest thousands of dollars in a company to help her get rid of that strong, stale cigarette smell. So what should she know and what do you recommend?
TOM: Well, typically, what you do to get rid of an odor is you take out the carpets and you prime everything. Professionals can do a much better job of that than you can but I would say because you are so super sensitive, don’t do it. I mean you’re going to be on the lookout for just the faintest hint of this cigarette smell and I just don’t feel like this is the right house for you. They can do a good job but I just think, whatever they do, you might still find some areas that you’re just not happy with it and then you’ll regret the purchase.
LESLIE: Yeah. And it really is more difficult than you think, sometimes, to get rid of that odor. So if there’s another property that you like just as much, let’s go with that one.
TOM: Well, do you have a room in your house that could use a little color but painting the entire room is just way too much work? Leslie has got tips on how adding just a pop of color can deliver a big impact, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Every so often, it’s really nice to spice things up around your house. However, if you want to do any sort of remodel, not only is it time-consuming but it can also be pretty pricey, as well. So maybe you want to consider adding an accent wall that’s going to give you that pop of color that you want without the expense and without the long amount of work that you might need to put in.
So, for starters, you can try to paint a single wall. You want to make sure to use a color that’s going to compliment or even contrast the other walls in the room. And usually, the wall behind your bed, if you’re doing the bedroom or the wall behind the couch or maybe the surround of the fireplace or in a dining room, the area below a chair rail – something that’s smaller, more manageable clearly becomes a focal point for a reason. So that’s why you kind of pick those spaces out.
Now, once you kind of figure out where you’re going to go, you can then pick out a color that’s going to work well. You can go for something in a different finish. You can go for something in a different texture. But pick out something that gives you that sense of fun and that sense of adventure color that you’re wanting to bring in the space.
Now, if that accent wall doesn’t seem like your thing but you want to jazz things up a bit, maybe paint the window frames and the woodwork a different color. That definitely gives the room a bit of personality and it’s totally on trend right now. But if that’s not your thing, add in accessories that are those colors. Whatever you’d like to do, find a way to bring that color in. And an accessory in that colorway is certainly a good way to audition your feelings for that space. See if you like it, see if it’s something you want to stick with. And then maybe you can be a little bit more brave and tackle that accent wall.
TOM: Good advice.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, did you guys know that heating and cooling accounts for a third of your annual energy expense? There is a simple way to cut those costs and it’s by using a smart programmable thermostat. We’ll tell you what to look for, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2021 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)